Using Google Docs to create digital records

The potential for digital record keeping of food safety data is now easier than ever. Here are some basic considerations for creating a digital recordkeeping system in Google Docs.

Implementing good food safety in producing fruits and vegetables requires attention to detail. One area where detail is important is in the area of record keeping. Often, the difference between good and poor records is having the necessary recording implements handy when monitoring processes. Using smartphones and digital devices may overcome many barriers to effective and efficient recording of information. One way to do this is by using Google Docs.

Many people associate Google with simply a search engine. While Google has created a search engine, Google also offers a suite of other software applications, including an application called Google Docs. This application is a traditional word processing program with some fairly useful extensions. One extension is Forms. In Forms, a user can create an online survey that can be answered anywhere by clicking on a link to bring the survey questions up. The link can be sent via email and can be answered via tablet, smartphone or laptop.

The first step in setting up a digital record book through Google Docs is to have a concise and well-written food safety manual. The better it is written, with consolidated records based around general activities like harvest or grading, the better the result after conversion to digital.

After a concise food safety plan is written, the next step is to determine which records would be best to digitize. Not all records make sense to be in digital formats. Records that do make sense to digitize are those that require frequent record keeping events. As an example, a mock recall performed once every six months probably is not worth digitizing. A sanitizer monitoring log, where the monitoring must happen hourly during packhouse operations, makes sense to digitize.

Another consideration is the number of people who need to record information and their geographic distribution on the farm, relative to the record log. If three geographically dispersed workers have to record information, having a digital log will allow each of those workers to enter data in real time on one log sheet without having to generate three pieces of paper or transcribe three logs into one.

In an effort to aid growers in developing online records, Michigan State University Extension has created a step-by-step fact sheet to walk them through the process. If you would like a copy of the fact sheet or have general questions on implementing good food safety practices on your farm, contact the Agrifood Safety Workgroup at 517-788-4292 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Ask for fact sheet number AFSM 042-01.

Note: Use of Google Docs does not constitute an endorsement or condemnation on the part of MSU Extension or its employees.

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